Line analysis: Divisional Weekend

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Line analysis: Divisional Weekend

In the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, recreational bettors can always be counted on to disproportionately favor the teams that were victorious in the wild-card games. The public has a short memory, and it’s easy to put added stock in teams fresh off impressive wins, which will frequently be reflected in the NFL betting lines for the next round of games.

Along the same lines, teams hosting divisional games all have something in common: none of them played the prior weekend. So when squads like the Colts stage an historic 28-point comeback or the Saints earn the first road playoff win in their franchise history, it’s those performances that are fresh in the minds of recreational bettors – as opposed to, say, the Seahawks and Broncos crushing their opponents back in Week 17.

Because of that, conventional wisdom – which usually says to bet favorites early and underdogs late – can get flipped on its head for Divisional Weekend. Indeed, the betting trends for the three games with significant home favorites have been ‘dog heavy throughout the week.

Despite their 26-24 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia, the Saints opened as 8.5-to-9-point underdogs for their rematch with the Seahawks. Those numbers didn’t last long, and by Friday morning Seattle was listed predominately as 8-point favorites, with the LVH and William Hill books having dropped the line all the way to 7.5. Accordingly, 57 percent of the ticket count had come in on New Orleans as of that point. However, there was a strong buyback on the Seahawks on Saturday morning that bumped the line back up to anywhere from 8.5 (MGM) to 9 in many places, and even 9.5 (LVH). The ticket count has remained the same, though, indicating sharp money on Seattle. That is more likely than not a result of the heavy rain and wind expected in the Pacific Northwest. The total, which opened as high as 48 and had settled at 45.5 on Friday, moved as low as 44 by gameday morning.

Both AFC games experienced midweek action on the ‘dogs, albeit with less drastic line shifts. The Broncos were initially hung as 10-point favorites over the Chargers, but a 60/40 ticket split in favor of San Diego had pushed the line down to 9.5 with standard -110 juice at most shops by Friday. Some additional San Diego money on Saturday nudged it down to 9 at many books. And bettors had jumped on the Colts getting 7.5 points in New England to the tune of a 59/41 ratio by late in the week. After first adjusting the juice on the Patriots side of the 7.5, many books had no choice but to move the line onto the key number of 7 by Friday morning. By Saturday, however, the public appeared to have changed its mind, as the ticket count fell to almost an even split and the line moved back to 7.5. Again, weather is surely a factor, with as much as 1-2 inches of rain and 40 mph wind gusts possible in New England come gametime.

This week’s roller-coaster line movement belongs to 49ers-Panthers, which – similar to Chiefs-Colts last week – has seen significant action on both sides. Not long after San Francisco outlasted Green Bay on the frozen tundra, oddsmakers opened the Niners as a pickem in Carolina. That number was short-lived, as some early heavy San Fran action pushed it almost immediately to 49ers -2 by Monday morning. At that point, the wiseguys started coming in on the Carolina side, which slowly moved the line back toward a pickem. Line shopping has been and will continue to be key in this matchup, as everything from pickem to San Francisco -2 was available as of Saturday morning in Vegas and offshore.

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